Motorsports Recap And Behind The Scenes Access

The Nitro Circus Returns To Virginia–It’s The Recliner Report!


Stop #10–Virginia NHRA Nationals, Virginia, Motorsports Park, Richmond, Virginia



For some folks it’s a day to attend a beloved house of worship, while others grab a mug of their fave java and kick it on the back porch or deck. At the same time, others are digging the caffeine simply to help their eyes stay open because of Saturday night’s “festivities.” No matter. It’s all good. Day seven is made for doing whatever, whenever, however, and whyever. (Is that a new word? Who cares? It is now!)

However, around the world of the Recliner Report staffers, the day before Monday isn’t titled Sunday. Or, a day of rest. Or any other name folks have created through the years. Nope, Sunday just doesn’t cut it.

See, around these parts, the staffers have deemed it…”Sunday, Sunday SUNDAY!” That means RACEDAY, and from the moment their little eyes pop open in the morning, it’s go time! The bags of chips are counted, the cans of bean dip organized, the Twinkies are selected, sorted, and arranged, and the DVR is double and triple-checked to insure that the Fox 1 Sports coverage of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Tour is prepped for recording! Sure, the SEC is famous for mega-legendary tailgating before college football games in the fall, and deservedly so. Simply stated, those folks can bring it. But, the RR staffers will give ‘em a pretty good run for their money. OK, so there are no bands or cheerleaders to bring the noize, but it’s all good when recliners are part of the lineup.

Yesterday? Dude, it was raceday, and for some reason, the guys were in an especially rowdy mood, probably ‘cause of the big bowl of queso included with this week’s spread. Cheese has a way of pumping them up, and this container of liquid gold included just the right amount of green and red chilies…epic!

Needless to say, the guys were totally amped at broadcast time, and the Virginia NHRA Nationals did not disappoint. From the opening moments, it was obvious the folks at Virginia Motorsports Park were thrilled to see (And smell!) the nitro for the first time since the NHRA’s last visit in 2009. Folks, this one was off the chain from the show’s starting line!

THIS ONE SOUNDS LIKE KABLOOEY–The broadcast literally opened with a bang following video of Saturday’s complete disintegration of Cruz Pedregon’s hot rod body during a qualifying run explosion. Dude’s car body was in enough pieces to cause professional puzzle builders to simply shake their heads and walk away. As Amanda Busick reported, Cruz stated that the blast may have been “…the worst of his entire career” and the man speaks the truth. Still, Pedregon walked away on his own power, reinforcing the amazing safety efforts of the NHRA. Following a long night of repairing, replacing, and rejuvenating, The Cruzer emerged for final eliminations in a gorgeous replacement named, “The Frankenstein.”

ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY–Championships matter. Yep, they’re important, as titles can bring in new sponsors and greatly needed funds to racing teams. Still, finishing as #1 at the end of a season doesn’t guarantee victories the following year, as proven by Bill Litton’s first-round victory over reigning Top Fuel champ Brittany Force. The loss was Force’s sixth in the opening round this season.

GREEN LIGHT…RED LIGHT–In another first, only it was actually his second, Clay Millican, who was in the running to complete a Top Fuel trifecta after consecutive wins in Topeka and Chicago, hit the nitro just a touch early, causing him to suffer a first-round redlight loss to Leah Pritchett, only his second violation of that type in 277 races.

MY BAD, GUYS “My dog ate my homework.” Ever heard that little jewel of an excuse from a classmate? (An RR staffer just bowed his head in shame…yeah, we all knew he’d pulled that one out before) Anyway, if we didn’t already have an excuse to love Clay Millican before, he gave viewers another reason to jump on his fanwagon following his red light goof. Interviewed by Amanda Busick about what took place on the line, the Tennessee resident simply stated, “I just made a mistake. I was amped up, ready to go…I made a mistake, I let my team down…I absolutely dropped the ball…my fault, no two ways around it, no excuses, no nothing. I made a mistake.” Look in any dictionary under “classy move” and you’ll find Clay’s photo. Epic stuff.

DOWN FOR THE COUNT? FUGEDDABOUT IT–After a Saturday boomer that could probably be heard all the way to Detroit, not only did Cruz Pedregon line up for his first-round battle against Robert Hight, he defeated last week’s champ. How about it? Can anyone out there imagine being in a 10,000 horsepower nitro explosion on your local freeway one day, then willingly climbing back in a car the next day to drive 300-plus miles-per-hour? Dude has guts galore…

JOE KNOWS CARS–Lewis Bloom spent time in the “Legends of the Weekend” segment with five-time champion Joe Amato, who in true Amato style, was “tickled pink” just to be remembered for his accomplishments by fans. Nice interview with a 52-race winner, one who defines modesty in an age where some folks want a statue created in their honor for even the smallest successes…

WE JUST GOTTA KNOW! In her “Behind The Visor” segment with Clay Millican, reporter Amanda Busick found out the following: Millican found deep-fried Twinkies to be the strangest food he’s ever eaten, (All the staffers cried tears of joy after hearing that piece of news. They all bowed to Clay as well.) that he’s “definitely” a night person, and that race season is his fave time of the year because he loves going fast. Also, his dream vacation involves hanging out at the Fort Lauderdale condo of “Captain Chaos”, (AKA Kenny Koretsky) that a movie about his life would be titled, “Dreamers Win”, (Millican chose Tom Cruise to play the lead role) and finally, his toothbrush is blue. Fun stuff. Two hours later, staffers were still crying with happiness at the thought of a warm, crusty Twinkie…wow.

NOT EVEN THE BLINK OF AN EYE–Stevie Blaze Torrence and Terry McMillen locked horns in a first-round matchup, with the Capco Kid taking the victory by 77 ten-thousandths of a second. Imagine life without slo-mo replay. Had they determined the winner of that race by eyeballing it, the judge at the finish line would be asking around to see if anyone had a quarter to flip. Dang, that was a close one.

GUESS WHAT? Riddle: What is 36 inches tall, 17 and ½ inches wide, weighs 48 pounds, and has a circumference of 115 inches? Nope, it’s not the size of the RR staffers’ bowl of bean dip, but the size of a Top Fueler’s rear tire. With about six pounds of tire pressure at the starting line, the initial job of the tire is to “…squat and plant down” in order to grab the track and accelerate forward. At half-track, the wheel is fighting downforce, which puts 5,000 pounds of pressure and flattening out the bottom half of the tire, while at the same time, battling the centrifugal force of going 330 miles-per-hour, causing the tire to grow about five to seven inches in height from the starting line until crossing the finishing stripe. So, what’s the cost of one of these little jewels? Around 917 bucks for each, but, they have a pretty good lifespan…if one or two miles per tire sounds good to ya. Thanks to Bruno Massel and his “NHRA 101 segment”, we now have a choice when it’s time to reboot the ol’ Traverse…hey, c’mon, these bad boys own a speed rating of 330 mph!

DAVE DOES THE MATH–Ace TV guy Dave Rieff is one upbeat fella. Dude is always jacked with something positive to say about any situation. But, even Rieffer can be a little down now and then, as we heard when he mentioned that the combined ages of Pro Stock pilots Tanner Gray and Vincent Nobile were still less than his own. Yeah, they’re young bucks, but Dave, in addition to your amazing talents behind the mic, you’re much safer and more comfortable. Hey, the track temp Sunday was 130 degrees. Your booth has air conditioning…and snacks! They gotta work all day in that heat!

DON’T FORGET THE CREAM FILLING! The margin of victory between Gray and Nobile at the finish line during their Round 2 faceoff? 89 ten-thousandths of a second, which translates into 33 inches. Staffers were scrambling to the snack table to see how many Twinkies lined up end-to-end would be necessary to achieve that distance. Goobers…

NO CHEETING HERE, JUST YEARS OF PRACTICE–The snack table was again the site of some serious mathematical efforts following the LE Tonglet versus Eddie Krawiec battle of the Pro Bikes in Round 2, with LE victorious by 57 ten-thousandths of a second. This time, the goobers were attempting to see how many Cheetos they could pick up in that amount of time, with the winner actually managing 63…yeah, believe it or not, in 57 ten-thou. Sounds impossible, but this guy’s hands are already permanently colored orange from years of practice. Hey, he keeps the cholesterol pill biz in full swing, but you gotta admit, that’s pretty speedy work!

JUST GOIN’ FOR A STROLL–We had our first Mr. & Mrs. join Amanda Busick on her “Walk 1000 Feet” segment, as Matt and Angie Smith hit the road for a stroll on the Virginia concrete, and doubled the already tons of fun we enjoy each week! We learned that Matt has always had a goal of 20 event wins, and with a current victory total of 19, he’s quickly closing in on the target. Angie revealed that her first win (Which just happened to be against the guy standing next to her!) was “…pretty priceless.” Towards the top end, Amanda pulled out two large heart-shaped cards, both decorated with “Mr.” on one side and “Mrs.” on the other, which were then used to provide answers to questions provided by Busick. Both agreed that Angie is the better cook, (Everything is homemade!) but when determining who plans the better dates, who snores, and who’s quicker off the line, the couple weren’t quite in sync, though Matt claimed to have a video of Angie snoring. (Ummm…dude, a hint regarding this little matter: hit the “delete” button on that one. Angie’s cute, funny, a great bike rider, and someone who loves to cook great foods for both of you. Delete, dude, delete!)

FACE FIRST–Erica Enders advanced to the final round in Pro Stock with her 38 ten-thousandth-of-a-second win over Chris McGaha. We won’t talk about staffers attempting to guzzle the most queso given that length of time, and we especially won’t show the video shot by one of the fellas during the competition. There are just some things even too disgusting for the Internet…

NEVER BEEN THERE, MAN–LE Tonglet’s win in the Pro Bike final was his 17th title overall, tying him for the 8th spot on the all-time victory list in the two-wheel category with the one-and-only Antron Brown. Interestingly, Tonglet’s win, his first of the 2018 season, came on his first-ever trip to Richmond.

OK, THIS COULD GET WEIRD–The Pro Stock category had all the elements of a “We’re not sure how this one’s gonna turn out” race, as it featured Tanner Gray versus Erica Enders, who, based on previous comments, weren’t exactly on each other’s Christmas card lists. However, following Tanner’s victory, both he and Enders were real pros, with Enders walking over at the top end to give Gray a hug. Cool stuff. Classy move. The win by Tanner, his 7th, tied him with dad Shane, and all this by the age of 19. Finally, Gray’s tuner? Dave Connolly, who took the Richmond Pro Stock title in 2008.

THIS PLACE SEEMS FAMILIAR TO ME–John Force has advanced to the final round of Funny Car a total of 251 times in his career, however, he was deemed the underdog in his battle Sunday against daughter Courtney. And, on this weekend, his daughter captured the title, becoming the first Funny Car driver to win four times in a single season since…you got it, father John, who achieved the same feat 16 years ago. Cool fact: the last time Courtney was at Richmond, she was standing in the Winner’s Circle with her dad after he picked up the trophy…on her seventh birthday.

AND A MOSH BROKE OUT–The victory by Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel category came in his 200th race, and was also the anniversary of his 2006 debut, which took place where? Yep, in Richmond. Steve’s fourth victory of the season set off a wild and wooly mosh by his crew, which gave staffers an idea: how about a mosh-off between the Kalitta guys and Torrence’s bunch? The guys could receive points for hang time while leaping onto the pile, height of the pile, and bonus points for the crew member covered with the most crud from the lane. The group which accumulates the most points would win a trophy, which would consist of an actual piece of asphalt, complete with a figure of a crew member lying facedown on it, one trying to peel itself off the sticky surface while covered in all kinds of gunky tire residue–we could call it…the “Grimey”! Hmmm…

Hey, guess what? Just a few itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny days until Thunder Valley lives up to a well-deserved reputation! Yep, the party continues in four days at Bristol, Tennessee, the home of the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, and Tennessee, you’d better get ready, ‘cause a nitro storm is headed your way! Till then, keep reclining!




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